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Updated 8:00 AM March 9, 2009
 

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UMHS estimates community benefit of more than $320 million

What's a health system worth? The U-M Health System reports that through its charity care and contributions to community health plans it provides a community benefit estimated at $323 million.

The greatest share of its community benefit is providing $170 million in uncompensated direct patient care. The amount has risen over the years as UMHS expands its care and commitment to the uninsured and those enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare. Hospitals absorb the difference between payments and the actual cost of providing care to patients enrolled in government health programs, which usually is a loss.

"But the community benefit of hospitals is increasingly measured in more than dollars and cents," says Doug Strong, chief executive office of the U-M Hospitals and Health Systems, who presented a report of these findings to the Board of Regents at its Feb. 19 meeting.

"The University of Michigan Health System is meeting these changing standards by fostering community programs that expand health education, provide nutritious meals and improve housing. All of these elements work together to support the well-being of the community," he says.

Community benefit combines charity care costs, $142 million in research costs not covered by grants and contracts and $11 million in community health programs and services such as smoking cessation classes, cancer answer lines, health screenings for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school children, and adult day services for older adults with memory loss.

The increasingly difficult economic environment is stressing the ability of providers to respond to the growing needs of the 1.2 million Michigan residents without health insurance, but UMHS remains committed to providing access to high-quality health care.

UMHS maintains its status as a world-class institution while remaining an asset at home. Uncompensated direct patient care to Washtenaw County residents totaled $43.8 million in 2008 and includes contributions to community mental health and federal and county health plans.

One such plan is the Washtenaw Health Plan, a public-private partnership between Washtenaw County government, the UMHS, St. Joseph Mercy Health System and other local health care providers. WHP enrolls 12,490 low-income Washtenaw residents who are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or other public programs.

WHP expands access to care using an organized system. Its resources come mainly through substantial hospital donations in the form of free care.

Medicaid-eligible and uninsured adults and children who need mental health and substance abuse education and services are served through the Washtenaw Community Health Organization, and UMHS is a partner. WCHO serves about 20,000 members and 7,800 are assigned to the Health System.

Faculty, staff and students donate health care services at various sites throughout the county including the Corner Health Clinic, Robert J. Delonis Center, Hope Clinic, Packard Community Clinic, Migrant Health Clinics and nurse-managed family health clinics.

Community benefit is featured in programs that go beyond the doors of the hospitals and health centers. The Housing Bureau for Seniors has helped 18,000 adults over age 55 maintain affordable housing and Meals on Wheels delivered 130,000 nutritious meals in 2008. Both are U-M-sponsored programs.

Plus, UMHS participates in disaster readiness training, referrals to community services and supports initiatives to improve the health of the community, such as the Health Improvement Plan of Washtenaw County Healthy People 2010. HIP is working to lower the proportion of adults with diabetes and increase immunizations among toddlers, among other goals.

"More than an obligation for non-profit hospitals, UHMS is proud to lead or support programs that improve the physical and mental health of local residents," Strong says.

UMHS has adopted as its mission to be a leader in research, education and patient care. Community benefit can be found in each of them from drawing research funding to the Michigan economy, providing care to 300,000 different patients each year and attracting the nation's best physicians-in-training.

More than a third of the physicians trained at the Medical School stay here to practice and care for Michigan residents.

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